A large crowd is expected at Crowley Park for tonight’s eagerly-awaited Connacht derby between leaders Galwegians and Buccaneers, which kicks another exciting weekend of Division 1B fare.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, January 31
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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GALWEGIANS (1st) v BUCCANEERS (5th), Crowley Park, 7.30pm, Friday, January 30
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Galwegians: WWWWLWWWWLLW; Buccaneers: LWWLLWDWLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Conor Lowndes 26; Tries: Matt Dever 5; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 57; Tries: Jacob Walshe 4
Preview: Galwegians may still be leading the division, but they will definitely need an upturn in form if they are to remain in pole position. A Conor Lowndes penalty was the difference last time out against UL Bohemians.
Buccaneers would love nothing more than to knock their Connacht rivals off their perch, particularly as they blew a 22-0 first half lead when losing 29-25 away to ‘Wegians in October.
The sides’ Connacht Senior Cup final clash was won by the midlanders (28-14), however the Galway men have enough in their locker to complete a league double here under the Glenina floodlights.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday April 14, 2012: Galwegians 20 Buccaneers 17, Crowley Park; Saturday, October 4, 2014: Buccaneers 25 Galwegians 29, Dubarry Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win
BALLYMENA (4th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Eaton Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Ballymena: WWWWWLLWWDWL; UL Bohemians: WWLLLLLLWLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 63; Tries: Sean Taylor 6; UL Bohemians: Points: Shane Airey 90; Tries: Ian Condell 4
Preview: Ballymena are very bankable at their Eaton Park base, and with three of their next four league games at home this is a vital period of the season for Andy Graham’s men.
Despite losing to Trinity last time out, they have been one of the more consistent sides in Division 1B with top scorers Ritchie McMaster (63 points) and Sean Taylor (6 tries) impressing behind a settled pack – Saturday’s selection includes Andrew Warwick, John Andrew and Dave Ryan in the front row.
Sitting second from bottom, UL Bohs are staring at their fourth straight defeat and will need a spark of inspiration from their Mossie Lawler-led back-line if they are to produce an upset up north.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 3, 2012: Ballymena 13 UL Bohemians 27, Eaton Park; Saturday, October 4, 2014: UL Bohemians 23 Ballymena 30, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win
GARRYOWEN (2nd) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (7th), Dooradoyle
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Garryowen: WLWWLWWWLWWW; Belfast Harlequins: LLWLWLLLLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 114; Tries: Alex Wootton 5; Belfast Harlequins: Points: Eamon Lane 46; Tries: David McMaster 5
Preview: Garryowen will have to quickly get over the disappointment of losing another Munster Senior Cup final to Cork Constitution, with Belfast Harlequins the latest visitors to Dooradoyle.
The Light Blues are probably the team to watch at present in this division, averaging over 33 points per game in their last three wins. Hooker Ed Rossiter has got on the scoresheet with recent tries against Buccaneers and Corinthians.
Harlequins will be dangerous opponents, though, if they can take their home form on the road. Young full-back Rory Scholes has scored three tries in as many games, with Neil McComb also making his presence felt up front.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 4, 2014: Belfast Harlequins 13 Garryowen 24, Deramore Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
MALONE (6th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (3rd), Gibson Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Malone: WLLLWWLLLLWL; Dublin University: LLLWWWDWWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Josh Pentland 77; Tries: Rory Campbell 4; Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 91; Tries: Conor Kearns 5
Preview: It is hard to know what to make of Malone at the moment. Having looked like they turned a corner when beating Corinthians, they then suffered a 20-point derby defeat to Belfast Harlequins.
They are still searching for an 80-minute performance. Lapses in concentration have let them down, as was the case when they lost 26-17 to Dublin University in October.
Can Trinity extend their unbeaten run to ten games? They are still without regular out-half Jack McDermott, but players like Brian du Toit are delivering consistently. The flanker touched down last time out against Ballymena and also grabbed a try against Malone earlier in the season.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 29, 2014: Malone 8 Dublin University 12, Gibson Park; Saturday, October 4, 2014: Dublin University 26 Malone 17, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
SHANNON (8th) v CORINTHIANS (10th), Coonagh
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLWLLWLWLWL; Corinthians: LWLLWLWLLDLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 58; Tries: John Shine 4; Corinthians: Points: Conor Murphy 53; Tries: Eoghan Masterson, Conor Murphy 3 each
Preview: There is very little between the teams currently scrapping to avoid relegation from Division 1B, with just two points separating bottom-placed Corinthians from Malone in sixth.
With that in mind, the winners of this game could give themselves some welcome breathing space. Recent form and home advantage suggests that Shannon should prevail.
The Limerick men ran out 30-7 winners away to Corinthians in October and toppled leaders Galwegians three weeks ago. They will have to curb the scoring threat of Corinthians danger men David Panter and Dwayne Corcoran, with the latter dotting down twice in his last three appearances.
Recent League Meetings – Sunday, March 9, 2014: Shannon 10 Corinthians 5, Coonagh; Saturday, October 4, 2014: Corinthians 7 Shannon 30, Corinthian Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win